Warning! Warning! ‘Judge Dredd: The Dark Judges’ is a super little book but beware duplicating stuff you may already have. Dredd is featured in the title because he’s the big name Judge of Mega-City One but he doesn’t feature all through. Pages 54-114 have the story with the overall title of ‘Four Dark Judges’ which is really a Judge Anderson story and it features in another volume dedicated to her adventures. The other volume is bigger and easier to read, too.
The first fifty odd pages do feature the big-jawed Judge in two stories: ‘Judge Death’ and ‘Death Lives‘. The first is scripted by John Wagner alone and the second by him and Alan Grant. Both are excellently, beautifully drawn by Brian Bolland, whose elegant ink work reminds me somewhat of Joe Sinnott but more perhaps of Murphy Anderson, stalwart embellisher of about a million DC comics in the Silver Age.
Judge Death comes from another dimension which is obviously similar to Dredd’s, with harsh Judges empowered to dispense harsh justice and no namby-pamby liberal lawyers or civil rights activists interfering with the law. However, Judge Death has taken the rather extreme view that since all crime is committed by the living then life itself is a crime. His mission is to kill everyone and having succeeded at home he now wants to kill everyone in other dimensions, too. Clearly, it’s not just a job with him, it’s a vocation. Judge Death is essentially a spirit form but has to occupy a body to carry out the good work. For a while, he occupies that of Judge Anderson, a female colleague of Dredd. This eventually makes her key to stopping him.
Which is probably why she takes over the heroic role completely in the last half of the book. ‘Four Dark Judges’ features not only Judge Death but his three fun colleagues, Mortis, Fire and Fear. It’s a long and well plotted story by Wagner and Grant with great art contributions from Brett Ewins, Cliff Robinson and Robin Smith. Brett Ewins does most of it but, whether by accident or design, the other two guys draw in a similar style so there is no sense of discontinuity. Indeed, if you didn’t read the credits you would hardly notice. Mind you, if you can read the credits you will easily pass the eyesight requirements for a driving test. This brings me to something a gentleman will only discuss reluctantly and a lady should never, ever mention: the matter of size.
It is certainly worth noting that the pages are rather small and the lettering very small indeed, which is indubitably what makes these little editions so cheap. It’s an ideal purchase for a miser with 20/20 vision. The rest of you will have to get a good strong reading light and perhaps a pair of reading glasses. It’s worth it, though, because the stories are such fun.
(pub: 2000AD/Abaddon. 160 page graphic novel small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 6.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78108-045-0)
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